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Maureen Duffy on the banning of ‘The Microcosm’ for Banned Books Week 2018 

Filed under: Fiction

The banning of The Microcosm 
an interview with RSL Vice President Maureen Duffy

Maureen Duffy’s novel The Microcosm, published by Hutchinsons in 1966, was first banned by The Vatican, then by the Irish government, and finally by the South African government at the height (or depth) of apartheid.

    • How did you feel about your book being banned?
      At first I was worried about the publisher’s reaction, and whether it would damage sales. But on the other hand it was a form of publicity. Then I began getting letters from women all over the country, thanking me and asking where they could find the gay women’s club where the novel is mostly set.
    • How did you find out you were banned? Did you respond/ appeal?
      I was informed about the bans by my then editor at Hutchinson’s, Graham Nicol. I knew it was useless to appeal against the Vatican and similarly to the Irish government. After it was banned in South Africa under the apartheid laws because it showed black and white people socialising and even dancing together, I was later asked for permission to stage one of my plays, I think Rites, there, which I refused on the grounds that if they didn’t want my novel they couldn’t have my play, which unlike other plays of mine had only white characters.
    • Did you keep the letters (saying you’d been banned)?
      I wasn’t informed of the bans by letter only my editor’s word of mouth.
    • Has anyone ever advised you against publishing something?
      Originally the book was conceived as a non fiction study of gay women at that time but I was told by two publishers that no one would publish it because I wasn’t a sociologist, and advised to turn the material I had already collected into a novel. And an editor once rejected a manuscript on the grounds that he didn’t like history.
    • Have you ever read something and wish you could ban it?
      Only hate mail. I’m against banning books.
    • Why is Banned Books Week UK necessary/ important in 2018?
      Banned Books Week is still necessary in 2018 , to remind us that although some battles have been won, the clock can always be put back, and of the importance of literature, and freedom in its expression for a vibrant culture.

 


Related RSL Fellows

Maureen Duffy 1985